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The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle for the Canon 5D MKII

COW Library : Cinematography : Jim Harvey : The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle for the Canon 5D MKII
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CreativeCOW presents The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle for the Canon 5D MKII -- Cinematography Review


New York City New York USA

©2009 CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


If you are using the Canon 5D MKII or Nikon D90 for their gorgeous HD video, or even thinking about it, you need to read this. Creative COW Contributing Editor Jim Harvey shows how the Redrock Micro DSLR Bundle makes these cameras even more useful for video shooters, then shows how he and other pros are using it, in the field and in the studio. Jim is enthusiastic about the possiblities it opens up, and thinks you will be too.



The Redrock Micro DSLR Bundle, version 1.0, with shoulder mount
The RedRock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle ver. 1.0 introduces a new paradigm in image acquisition.
Shown here with optional blue focus gears.   (photo courtesy of Redrock Micro)

 

"Oh the times they are a changin'" goes the old song, and never was that more true than today. The world has turned upside down with the advent of video cameras that take stills and more incredibly from a quality standpoint, still cameras that take video. Little point and shoots have had the capability to shoot video clips for some time, the image quality varying from absolute junk to fairly good, but only very recently has a high end DSLR been given the capability to shoot not just video, but HD video.

Nikon's D90 broke the barrier with their 720p function, but it was Canon who knocked it out of the park with a true Full 1080p HD in their ground breaking 5DMK II.

Canon 5D MKII
Canon's 5D MK II is changing the way people look at HD acquisition.

At 21.1 megapixels, the 5DMK II has the highest resolution of any standard DSLR on the market today. Yes, there are higher pixel counts available, but they are specialty digital backs that are out of reach of mere mortals such as us. The 5DMK II, at under $3000.00 (body only) is not only affordable, but an incredible performer in its own right.

The video capability of this camera is nothing short of spectacular. While there are some small points that need to be addressed, on the whole, the camera delivers performance that was unattainable without spending 6 figures just one year ago.

Ergonomically, a DSLR isn't the best choice for shooting video. Awkward positioning of controls and the inability to zoom smoothly, as well as some focusing issues might make you take a pass on first inspection. But as with any new technology, there is that rough initial learning curve that we all have to get over. Fortunately, there are companies and individuals that stay up late at night thinking about those rough spots and then putting the gears in motion to come up with solutions to them.

REDROCK MICRO is one such company. Located in Dallas Texas, Redrock Micro has been around for 5 years now working continually to develop affordable solutions to people who don't have Hollywood sized budgets. Their express purpose of bringing cinema quality accessories to the market has been very successful due in no small part to the company's dedication to high manufacturing standards and innovative design. Their original product, the M2 Cinema Lens adapter allowed DV and HDV cameras to use 35mm Cinema lenses to dramatically improve the quality of recorded images.

Depth of Field Adapters, from Creative COW Magazine

 

[Ed. note: depth of field adapters from Redrock Micro and others were covered "in depth" in this article from the Cow library, by Todd Terry.)

 

 

Continued work on the M2 brought the logical evolution of the microFollowFocus, microLensSupport and other high quality, low cost cinema accessories. In an unprecedented move, Redrock Micro also released the Redrock Micro DIY Guides that provides an even more inexpensive alternative to those filmmakers who had the desire to learn more about camera lenses, videography and the art of cinematography. To give the filmmaker / videographer access to tools that were formerly the domain of high budgets and specialized equipment houses is a breakthrough that democratizes the entire process of image acquisition. This idea has been one of the main tenets of Redrock Micro.

All this is dandy, but what we're going to look at today is Redrock Micro's entry into the DSLR arena and their vision of DSLR Filmmaking the Redrock Micro way.

Here is the important question; how do you take a still camera and make it a viable cinematic engine that can be used in a professional environment?  As discussed before, shooting video with a DSLR isn't the most fun you can have with a camera from an ergonomic standpoint. Yes, the image is outstanding, but with such awkward handing, it becomes a logistical challenge to get that great footage that you see in your head. What to do? Well Redrock decided that to make the camera more usable, it needed a more stable platform to shoot from so they set out to build just that. The result is the REDROCK MICRO DSLR Cinema Bundle (ver.1.0).

This revolutionary system is completely modular and can be acquired in one fell swoop or put together piece by piece. But at under $3000.00 for the whole show, it's something that you might want to skip some lunch dates at the Burger Drive through to get the complete package all at once (and at the prices a "Fast Food" meal cost nowadays' you'll be paying off this unit in no time).

The basic package consists of the following;

  • 15mm support system
  • Follow focus with 35mm lens gearing for accurate and repeatable focusing
  • Swing-away Matte box for light management and easy access to changing lenses and filters.
  • Shoulder mount and handgrips for steady handheld use*
  • Support cage for enhanced stability and low angle shot

*Comes with the DSLR Field Cinema Bundle


When you open the box you find everything that you need to put this rig together. If you're at all like me, you will dive into each box with the requisite "Oooh's and Aahhh's" and then, assuming that you have a handle on the assembly, you will proceed to completely befuddle yourself and wonder what they might have been thinking when they sent this to you. Before you call customer service, do yourself one huge favor and check out Redrock's assembly tutorial.

In the six minutes that you will spend watching the video (and following along) you'll have your DSLR rig assembled and ready to work. If you DON'T watch it, you may end up like a guy I heard about (who will remain nameless) who sat in to middle of his studio scratching his head for a couple of hours. Trust me, it's a very straightforward procedure to assemble, but there are some points that need to be clarified. Watching the video does just that.

So with our box sitting in front of us we open it up to find the following parts;

  • microSupport baseplate with 1 pair of 12" 15mm stainless steel rods (lightweight configuration 60mm center to center)
  • shim kit (for vertical camera adjustments)
  • microMatteBox (Deluxe Bundle including eyebrow and adjustable side wings)
  • 1 pair of 12" Stainless steel rods that extend the microMatteBox arm support
  • microFollowFocus Unit
  • 4 microLensGears for gearing 35mm still lenses (sizes A B C and D)
  • microHandle top handle for carrying, and low mode shooting
  • microSupport Cage, including 3x 15mm arms, 1 pr 12" 15mm stainless steel side rods, and 1 pr 9" 15mm stainless steel top rods
  • access to video setup tutorials

I also added the Shoulder Support Kit* ($350.00) to round out the setup.
*Shoulder Support Kit is included in the DSLR Field Cinema Bundle kit.

(Note that there is now a Redrock Micro DSLR 2.0 Hybrid system. It is not intended to replace version 1.0. Instead, it offers a lower-price system, with a different approach. The DSLR 2.0 Hybrid brings much greater portability and lightweight to the rig. Using a special baseplate and industry standard 15mm rails, the DSLR 2.0 Hybrid eliminates the large cage and matte box. Incorporating a fully customizable selection of accessories, you can instantly tailor the rig to your personal shooting style while still maintaining a more discreet shooting style. The setup allows for more precise camera control without the need for a large rig. A Micro Follow focus can also be incorporated into the setup. Accordingly, the cost of this setup is much less than the full size DSLR Cinema bundle.)

 

Let's take a look at each component of the system.

The  microSupport Baseplate

Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle, baseplate
The RedRock microSupport Baseplate is the foundation of the entire system and rock solid (Redrock Solid?)


Just as they say a house is only as strong as its foundation, so it goes for the stability of any camera support. The microSupport Baseplate is the foundation of the RedRock system and as such is built like a tank. RedRock didn't cut any corners when they produced this component, and the adjustability of the mount itself shows a clear forethought in its design. You can adjust the height of the camera itself via the use of shims that will precisely position the camera on the mount. I found that their recommendations of two thick and two thin worked perfectly for me. The camera mounting plate also allows fore and aft movement to accommodate different lenses.

Standard camera plates attach to the Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema bundle.
Standard camera plates attach the camera to the baseplate. Longer lenses can utilize extended length plates for precise adjustment.

 

The microMatteBox

Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle microMatte box
The microMatteBox in concert with the Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Rig transforms the Canon 5D into a formidable tool for high end video production.

If ever a part was mis-named, it would have to be the "microMatteBox". This unit is full size in every way, from the huge French flag, full size side wings and filter holders, the microMatteBox could have an article all its own. When you open the box and confront this magnificent piece of engineering, you will be hard pressed to say anything other than "WOW!" I've worked with almost every manufactured matte box you could think of and I am not exaggerating when I say that this one is my all time new favorite.  

Just a quick listing of the features will have you wanting to get your hands on this. First off, the construction is to put it mildly, Robust. This was built to work out in the field.

While not overly heavy, it is substantial and the feature set is impressive. Two rotating filter stages that accept either 4" x 4" or 4" x 5.65" gel or glass filters. An assortment of lens adapters (cleverly made from a neoprene wetsuit type material that won't scratch expensive lenses and will still be light tight). Real metal side curtains that adjust with a small thumbscrew and a French flag that is large enough to insure that any stray light stays out of the places it doesn't belong. Coupled with more than enough size to accept any lens you might care to mount. Some longer lenses such as telephotos over 300mm will probably require you to use an adapter to adjust for length. I had no problems attaching a Canon 300mm F/4L to the rig and still have enough room for a grad in the filter holder.  

I particularly like the swing away function that makes lens changes so much easier. Rather than having to break down the setup for a lens change, the Matte Box has a small knob that you pull up and the entire Matte Box assembly swings to the side out of the way. You don't have to disrupt shooting and you can change lenses without having to remove the camera from its mount. The neoprene lens gaskets are supplied in an assortment of sizes to fit virtually any lens you might want to mount. If you have an "oddball" you can simply use a pair of scissors and modify an existing gasket to suit your needs.

 

Rotating filter stages in the Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle accomodate oddball  filters
Two rotating filter stages accommodate either 4 x 4 or 4 x 5.65 filters. Masks are included for 4 x 4 use as well.

Neoprene gaskets in the DSLR Cinema Bundle

The Matte Box seals the lens with an innovative neoprene gasket that can be easily modified with a pair of scissors. this eliminates any possiblitiy of scratching your lens.

 

Swing away Matte Box is actuated by a small knob on the frame (upper left in photo)
Swing away Matte Box is actuated by a small knob on the frame (upper left in photo)

 

Out of the box, the Redrock Micro can accommodate lenses up to 300mm (prime) without the need for special adapters. (Shown here with an EF300mmf/4L IS USM)
Out of the box, the Redrock Micro can accommodate lenses up to 300mm (prime) without the need for special adapters. (Shown here with an EF300mmf/4L IS USM)

 

The microFollowFocus

The Redrock microFollowFocus is a precision gear driven unit that allows precise focusing with any installed lens. The microLensGears come in various sizes to fit different diameter lenses.
The Redrock microFollowFocus is a precision gear driven unit that allows precise focusing with any installed lens. The microLensGears come in various sizes to fit different diameter lenses.


The Redrock microFollowFocus is another incredible piece of engineering and smooth as silk in operation. The adjustability both fore and aft as well as laterally to accommodate different microLensGears makes installation a snap.

Additionally, coupled with the ability of the microMatteBox to swing away, lens changes are quick and painless. A generous marking wheel is installed so that grease pencil marks can be clearly seen by the focus puller. Whips and Cranks of various sizes are also available to make pulling focus as smooth as possible.

The operation of the unit leaves little if anything to be desired as far as functionality and accuracy / repeatability. The gearbox of the focus unit is sealed and backlash free, insuring that you will hit your mark every time. The unique clamping mechanism allows for rapid adjustment and secure attachment as well as rapid removal should the need arise.

 

The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle microFollowFocus
The microFollowFocus has a unique clamping mechanism that also allows rapid adjustment laterally and fore and aft. Gearbox is sealed and backlash free for precise and confident repeatability.

 

 

The microSupportCage
The microSupport Cage lends protection, as part of the Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle
The microSupportCage cage ties all the pieces together into a coherent package. Additionally, it adds protection to the camera and lens.


This piece ties all the other components together and creates the rigid assembly that both protects and gives stability to the camera. Using 15mm stainless steel rods coupled to aluminum frame components assures you of a rock solid mount that isn't going to flex or move around when in use.

Although I didn't try it and wouldn't recommend it, it looks as if you could park your car on this thing. Careful and thoughtful planning and engineering has made the microSupportCage not only strong, but lightweight as well. This is a real bonus when you are shooting from the shoulder or want a low angle handheld. By combining or removing elements from the cage, you can customize your rig to reflect your style of shooting. Attachments can be made to add accessories to the rig and any standard accessory that utilizes 15mm rods can be incorporated into the system.

 

The microShoulderMount

Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle microShoulderMount
The RedRock microShoulderMount adds versatility and comfort to run and gun situations. Additional platform at rear allows accessories to be easily mounted.


Adding to the versatility of this package is the microShoulderMount. This additional rod setup allows you to configure the camera and accessories as a shoulder mounted rig that lends itself to documentary and run and gun situations. It is marvelously balanced which is evident when you pick the unit up from the carry handle and then position it on your shoulder. Magically, the whole system seems to lose 10lbs.

Adjustable handles allow the operator to position them in the most comfortable way. In this mode, the camera literally seems to glide as you "steer" it with the handles. There is an extra platform included that you can use to mount additional accessories such as audio or an Israeli arm for attaching a small monitor or shotgun mic.

Components of the Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle microShoulderMountComponents of the shoulder mount system. The Base of the shoulder mount pad is designed to be compatible with Arca-Swiss style mount as well as conventional 1/4-20 screw mounts.

Once assembled and installed, it becomes a part of the entire system. The design part of the kit blends seamlessly with the functionality and becomes a perfect fit. Nothing looks out of place here. Nothing looks like an "add on" or an afterthought.  Redrock Micro makes it all look simple, but the thought and styling that went along with the engineering is very impressive.

 

Some Conclusions

The REDROCK MICRO DSLR Bundle (ver. 1.0) may not be perfect, although to be honest, the only thing I found in the whole package to nit-pick was the size of the thumbscrews on the matte box. Should you be blessed with Human sized fingers rather than fingers more akin to the size of a standard pepperoni, you probably won't be bothered at all.  

Other than that, I really could not find anything to complain about. The design and execution of this system is such that with very little effort, you can place your work on an entirely new level that heretofore was effectively unobtainable by the vast majority of shooters.

I attribute this to the company's track record of innovative design and listening to feedback from its users. The DSLR Cinema Bundle creates such an enjoyable experience when using the Canon 5D MK II that any small points can be easily overlooked. I did some experimentation with the parts that were available in the kit and found that simply by being a little bit creative, one could actually tailor some different configurations that might be more usable in certain situations.

Custom configuration of the Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle is fast and easy

Simply by taking components from the DSLR Bundle, you can create your own personalized rig that allows you more flexibility. Shown here with a Rode Video Mic and a remote shutter release (for use with still photos). A follow focus could be added for additional control.


As with most things, sometimes less is more. Having the ability to "mix and match" components can yield several different configurations that can be adapted to different situations. Redrock Micro has begurn offering a la carte packages where you can pick and choose the pieces that you need, and construct your own rig, tailored just for your way of working. This will enable even MORE people to take advantage of being able to work with the camera on a stable platform in order to achieve the highest quality images possible.

Taking it all in and looking at what Redrock has produced, we can offer up the following opinion and conclusions:


Pros:

  • Takes an ergonomically limited piece of equipment and makes it suitable for high quality cinematic work.           
  • Is affordable in comparison to alternative equipment performing the same tasks.
  • Is configurable for different lenses and setups.
  • Audio remains clean with handling noise virtually eliminated.
  • Uses industry standard 15mm rods for maximum compatibility.
  • Can be customized for specific tasks.
  • Components can be purchased as needed.
  • Breaks down into a compact package that is easily transported to the job.
  • Offers enhanced protection to the camera itself.

 

Cons:

  • Requires a tripod for the best stability.
  • Thumb screws on Matte Box could be slightly larger for better grip.
  • Shoulder mount module may need additional imaging devices (monitor) to get best performance.

 

Based on what I have seen Redrock Micro do in the past, and how they listen to customer input, I think that this is just the beginning in terms of cinematic equipment becoming more accessible to a larger number of filmmakers, students, advertising agencies and freelancers. The fact that they call it "ver. 1.0" indicates to me that there is a lot of development still going on down there in the Lone Star State.

But more importantly, if you are looking to create incredible images RIGHT NOW, you can do so simply and easily by putting together the Canon 5DMK II and the Redrock DSLR Cinema Bundle or DSLR Field Cinema Bundle. With a good quality L series piece of glass up front, the total cost to you will be well under $7,000 -- and that's with a very good tripod thrown into the mix. For what you get in quality, control and usability, that's a steal.

Here is the answer to that lingering question "How do I get the 'film look'?" that surfaces in almost every conversation about video. No gimmicks, no plug-ins, no dickering with the footage in post. Put this system together, shoot it like film and watch the people fall out of their chairs. In the hands of a beginner, this system can elevate the quality of a project by leaps and bounds. In the hands of an experienced shooter, the sky's the limit.



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Re: The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle for the Canon 5D MKII
by Jim Harvey
Hi Jim:

Thanks for the kind words. I still am a big proponent of the RedRock equipment as I think it delivers the highest quality at a very good price point.

It is eminently usable in any configuration, and is easily modified for specialty work. that said, it IS an expensive piece of equipment (anything over $1000.00 is expensive to me) but the cost is offset by the results that you can achieve with it. If you are serious about your DSLR videography, you really can't afford NOT to have a rig.

I was also impressed with the helpfulness of the company itself. Brian Valente was a pleasant and knowledgable person to talk to. I suggest that you speak to him via email or by phone (his contact info is on the RedRock site.




Jim Harvey
JHV Digital
Re: The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle for the Canon 5D MKII
by Jim Bell
Thanks Jim! Great article has me drooling and accelerating my timeline for replacing my dvx100. This said what are the july 2010 downsides?

10.6.1, MacPro Quad 6GB RAM, Macbook Pro 17" w/G-Tech 2 TB GRaid with Sonnet Tempo eSATA via express card, FCS3, TC Electronic Impact Twin FW audio interface, 2 DVX100Bs
DSLR video
by Jeff Dunn
I have been familiar with the Red Rock stuff for some time. I have used the m2 with both the xl h1 and the hvx200, to achieve depth-of-field results similar to the DSLR. My question is in regard to the many posts here which mention the h.264 codec. This is the chief reason I have not used dslr video in my productions.

In the article, the HDMI port on the camera is mentioned as a monitoring solution. Would it be possible to record pre-sub-sampled, pre-compressed video from this port using either the Cineform technology or something such as the Blackmagic Intensity, or is this feed limited in some sense (framerate)?
The 5dMKII is not the highest resolution.....
by perket blanstrom
Your comment: "At 21.1 megapixels, the 5DMK II has the highest resolution of any standard DSLR on the market today. Yes, there are higher pixel counts available, but they are specialty digital backs that are out of reach of mere mortals such as us. The 5DMK II, at under $3000.00 (body only) is not only affordable, but an incredible performer in its own right." - this statement is erroneous unless you are specifically referring to the HD recording ability. The Sony Alpha900 is 24.6mp and based on what I've seen it is a much better camera than the 5D MKII.
Unarguable points
by Jim Harvey
Hang in there Ray, whether or not a DSLR is right for you at this point in time isn't going to make or break your business. But you're right when you say that Canon and to a lesser extent Nikon really need to get on board with a solid DSLR program. I think that there may be some resistance in not trying to compete with themselves in the high end video camera market, but they are going to have to develop either new methods of working with the footage, different formats or workflows because they've already let the genie out of the bottle. There are already a large cadre of hackers who are beating this camera to death in trying to extract more user friendliness from it. Canon may sometimes be slow to listen, but the DO listen. There are some amazing things coming to us in the future and you'll be able to say that you saw it happen from the beginning.

Using a DSLR for an entire production would be a herculean task, but you wait and see how many films school students are buying and learning this camera and you'd be amazed at what gets pumped out of it. And not to be too glib, gut you can't buy better footage from a crash cam. If it's going to get blown up, crushed, set on fire and you need some high quality footage, the 5DMK II is an unbeatable solution. It's the same old story, tools for the job at hand. The 5DMK II fits into a lot of people's projects just right.
CLAW Clip
by Jim Harvey
Charles you should be extremely proud of that piece. It's very well done. Have you done the upgrade to the camera to allow all manual settings yet? If not, do so as it really does give you a lot more control. I lovce the color. Is that straight out of the camera or did you do any grading on it? I know that the 5D has remarkable color which is why I am asking. Bottom line is that it looked fantastic on Youtube so it must be a real mindblower on a real monitor/HD Tv. This is one of those places where this camera shines. Bravo. There isn't a Network on earth that wouldn't be happy to run that footage.
My First 5dm2 shoot
by Charles "Stretch" Ledford
I'd be curious what folks think of this:





Used the 5dm2 with a Hoodman loupe, per Jim's suggestion.

Recorded sound with a Zoom H4n & sennhieser mics

Thanks.
Follow-up piece?
by Jason Casillas
Thanks Jim, you too Ray. I think until i actually get my hands on one, put the footage through the ringer, then author a test, i'll see first-hand what i'm up against. Now, if i could only find one without buying one.

I think a follow-up piece on work-flow and post-work would be a perfect answer for this debate.
Well, Crap
by Charles "Stretch" Ledford
Somehow all of my comment didn't get posted. I also said:

I do have the latest firmware, which came loaded on the camera.

The colour was straight out of the camera, with the exception of a bit of tweaking of the grocery and wine store scenes. I also lightened up a couple of the white background "portraits," as I had underexposed them a bit in camera.

FYI, I did shoot everything except using Auto White Balance except for the interview in Light House Studio.

I feel lucky to have come out with anything useable, really, given that I'd had only one short prior experience with the camera (a rental), and that my sound tech had never sound teched before. I just gave her a quick tutorial on the Zoom before we started shooting and... voila!

ps- one thing what was difficult with regard to the sound was that the PA system was very loud. It was virtually impossible to get ambient sound, and certainly impossible to get sound from the rasslin table, without the PA blowing our levels to kingdom come.
Thanks for Looking, Jim
by Charles "Stretch" Ledford
As a young photographer I shot Kodachrome and Fujichrome 35mm slide film, exposing it manually, before the advent of autofocus lenses; I think this made using the 5dm2 on manual mode a bit more intuitive for me.

Again, thank you for your kind words.
Don't give up...but what else is out there
by Raymond adams
Hi Jim,

What you said has merit, though comparing DV to H.264 isn't really the same thing...thou I agree that when compressed formats came out...they were difficult to work with and many had limited or less color info etc...etc...

Yes there have been some inventive ways to get around some of the issues...both with technology and with the processes involved...yes computers are getting faster along with more ablitlies...

But why use a format that causes so many issues when there are so many others that don't...or don't cause the workflow headaches that h.264 do.

With so much dynamic range this camera can work with and color depth, etc...why settle for a format that can't work with it?

This is an issue that needs to be put in front of Cannon and others.
Yes these are tools...but when you use sledge hammer to drive a nail...when a simple roofers or carpenters hammer would work better...and won't exhaust you at the end of the day...and you'll get more and better work done.

Yes, depending on your budgets, target audience and venues etc...will help make your media and format selections.

H.264 thou and interesting format for distibution...is still one that I would not use unless absolutely necessary...and then it would limit my shot selections, and uses...

When this could be so much more...and with other products coming to market that will allow better dynamic and color range...with variable frame rates, and audio , etc...etc...

I personally want a DSLR....but it is still a speciality and oddity camera rather than a base and workhorse I would like to have in my toolchest.

There are some issues that if worked out...would put a DSLR into anyone's kit who shoots or does any kind of media production. H.264 is an issue...that at this time requires compromises and has significant limitations.

I want a DSLR in my kit...but at this time...it's only good for stills and HDR imaging (with multiple exposed stills).
For general production, respectfully it's not there yet...but I'm sittin here waiting for them to realize what they've got.
Hard to work with - Let's give up
by Jim Harvey
Hi Ray;

I heard exactly the same comments not too many years ago about working with DV footage. Hard to edit (Impossible to edit at one point), Horrible artifacts, can't do greenscreen and on and on. But some folks muddled through and figured out ways to get the job done. It's pretty much the same with the current crop of DSLR cameras. The only thing is that we now have much more powerful boxes on our desks and there are more tools available to us. Not everyone is making a movie for Hollywood and not everyone is shooting a TV series. However, you can't really damn the format because Television and Hollywood will use whatever they find usable. In some instances that might necessitate renting a Panaflex, in others a 3 chip Video camera. Still other requirements will fit the DSLR perfectly. No one is saying that you need to only use the DSLR to complete your project. tha'ts like telling an artist that they can only use Titanium White and no other color (please don't point me to the art museum's where those big empty canvass' are...it's NOT art).

the fact is that DSLR's are tools, nothing more, nothing less. If they work for you great, if they don't fit your workflow, equipment, style or temperment, then obviously you need to look elsewhere. There are plenty of people who think that NOW is the time and probably a larger majority who are taking a wait and see attitude. The images are spectacular and unobtainable for the price any other way. So if you MUST HAVE IT, then this is but one option for you.

But to infer that they aren't "usable" in any conventional sense is flat wrong.

Hang in there, it's going to get better, it just takes time.
H.264 ready for primetime production?
by Raymond adams
Hi Again all,

Well, Cineform at least will allow you to help make this format more usable in an NLE...but this is a really a horrible format for acquisition....let alone for editing/FX/post...

Now has it been used? ...yes
But then again today even cell phone video has been used for some acquistion...and even old VHS tapes...
Is H.264 a format you want for your primary footage?
For me the answer is a resounding...NO! (respectfully)

It is limited to 8 bit...highly compressed with artifacts, horrible to impossible to edit from without converting to an intermediate format. etc... Try pulling a blue or green key with its limited colorspace and dymanic range...or doing DI/CC with it.

I know Jim and many of you want DLSR's to work and happen...
I actually do to...but h.264 is great for internet delivery and playback on personal devices...it is not the best or even desirable format to shoot in.

Cheers,
Using footage with Premier
by Jim Harvey
Hi Jason:
I have found that Cineform NEO scene works extremely well when working with this footage inside Vegas. I would assume that you would have equally good results within Premier. It's a relatively inexpensive add in and converts the 5D's footage accurately and quickly.

5D footage is already being incorporated into Television and Motion Pictures so that's a non issue.
Post-work
by Jason Casillas
I found some questions and answers regarding bringing in the H.264 footage into FCP but has anyone brought in this 5DMKII footage into Premiere? I have Cleaner, so I assume that can just use that before bringing it into Premiere but i just wanted to make sure before spending $3500. I'd hate to buy this camera and find that it wont work for me in post-production. i tried looking for a rental but to no avail.

Also, I'm wondering (because of all this post-production hub-bub) that this camera would not fly for broadcast use or even Blu-Ray replication. Would this camera work for those purposes? Thanks.
Timely information
by Michael Britt
I found this article while looking for a photo of Rodney Charters who is a speaker at our VDSLR conference and wanted to comment. The Redrock Micro kit is a very nice set up and the company is responsive and great to work with. We created a vertical shooting rig with them so that photographers can shoot for publications and provide video snippets for websites, skyscraper banner ads, digital signage etc.. You can read my article going into detail about how photography and cinematography is colliding at: http://imagemechanicsexpo.com/blog/7-collision-conference-announcement

Charles Ledford said: I'm a still shooter morphing into a "multimedia producer." That's where all the money is these days, right?? :)

(Interestingly, as all us still guys are getting into motion, a DP friend of mine in LA tells me that his ASC buddies are looking to get into stills, because they think THAT's where the money is!)"

That sentiment is backed up by my own experience and by Lou Lesko in his article "Will Video Kill the Still Photography Star" at DPP magazine - http://www.digitalphotopro.com/business/will-video-kill-the-still-photograp...
Focus Issues
by Jim Harvey
Hello Charles. You're correct in that the big issue with the 5D MK II is probably focus. With the firmware update that allows you to fix aperture and shutter speed, one big hurdle has been eliminated. Now even though the LCD screen is superb, as you stte, our aging eyes have a hard time achieving critical focus just using the screen. IKAN and MARSHALL make excellent monitors for the camera that will make focusing a more palatable experience. However, the new thrust is for an even more portable setup for thos who really want to "RUN AND GUN" with this camera. To that end, there is an interesting solution in the use of a screen "Loupe". Both Zacuto and Redrockmicro offer a loupe solution as does HOODMAN. Pricing is varied so you would be well served to do some homework before investing in a particular system. My personal preference is toward the HOODMAN setup as it's extremely affordable.
From a Still Shooter
by Charles "Stretch" Ledford
hey...

Very interesting thread.

I'm a still shooter morphing into a "multimedia producer." That's where all the money is these days, right?? :)

(Interestingly, as all us still guys are getting into motion, a DP friend of mine in LA tells me that his ASC buddies are looking to get into stills, because they think THAT's where the money is!)

In any event, I rented the 5Dm2 the other day and shot some motion with it within two hours of picking it up at the rental house. In the real world, the results would suck, but, as a first-time-shooting-motion experiment, I don't think they're too bad.

Even I know that no one would want to record sound with this thing, but even I know that it's not an issue because there are plenty of outboard sound options. (As you'll see in the link below, one option that's NOT good is do depend on the band's sound guy to record the show for you...)

So I love having Canon glass, having depth of field control (I HATE video with that infinite DoF), and having exposure control.

The biggest issue I found is that I may need bi-focals to focus using the LCD screen; I like shooting @ f/2.8 except on wide shots. To that end, what are the external monitor options you mention, Jim?

Oh... here's the link to the shoot; critiques welcome, but don't blow me TOO far out of the pond:





Thanks

I thought the results were
Superb article!!!
by Lou Bruno
You are an incredible professional who has taken the time and effort to educate the industry..Thank you Mr. Harvey...Thank You.

Lou Bruno
Warranties and other gear
by Jim Harvey
Adam:

I can't speak for Redrockmicro or Zacuto or any other company as to their warranty policies but I understand your concerns. I would point out that the gear that I tested was well made and certainly "field ready" from a "robustness" point of view. I think you'd have to really TRY to damage any of this gear from any of the manufacturers you named.

As for Zacuto's viewfinder, Hoodman offers an almost exact duplicate of the finder with a +/-3 Diopter for around $55.00 so if money is a concern (and I don't know anyone who DOESN'T think that money is a concern) then there are some very reasonable alternatives to look at. The next iteration/evolution of these rigs are very lightweight and portable shoulder rigs that are being developed and offered by all of the manufacturers. It's all happening very quickly so be sure to do your homework before you invest.

No matter which system you choose, you will be assured of high quality and manufacturing excellence. I wouldn't worry too much about length of warranty. Unless you're the Samsonite Gorilla (only 50 and above will understand that reference) you're unlikely to break any of these units.
Red Rock is tip of the iceberg
by Adam Cohen
This was a terrific review of the RedRock DSLR cinema solution. There are other options from Cinevate and Zacuto and Indie, however, and I am going back and forth between them, wishing for input from a reviewer.

Why does Red Rock only offer one year support on their products? Before you enter the store on RedRock's web site, you are asked to read all about the limited coverage they offer for their products. Hmmm. Cinevate backs up all of its productions, even the follow focus system, for LIFE. Yes, their stuff costs a little more, but it's also more versatile and way more robust. Then there's Zacuto's DSLR viewfinder, which none of the competition is offering. Looks pretty incredible. Zacuto charges way more than the rest, but their stuff looks more ergonomically smarter, and they offer a limited lifetime warranty. Then there's Indie's price points, which are lower, and its support policy is also attractive.

Would love to see a side-by-side feature/build quality/support review of DSLR cinema kit options.
Looking forward to the next installment
by Raymond Adams
Hi Tim and Jim.

Thanks for your comments and dialog.
Per your last post Tim.

Yes the Canon DSLR is a great still camera..(a cool beast in that area)...
But as for HD real production...especially for FX, Sports, or dynamic range productions...

IMHO, is not the best choice.

I know there are many trying to push H.264 (low profile) for production uses...but it just isn't there at this time...it isn't a good post format...and is implemented with various flavors..for which they are not very compatible.

So stating that Canon is great for pro production just hits me as not there...not yet...along with the other issues stated.

There seems to be so much made of the CMOS chip being 21 megapixels...which is great for the raw still shots...but that isn't what is being used fully for the HD..nor is the contrast range being utilized due to the H.264 being used.

So where does this leave us....

Looking forward to Canon's and Nikon's next step...and
looking forward to Jim's next article.

Proving I'm all wet :)

Cheers,

Ray Adams
DoP/VFX Supervisor
Cost vs. Performance
by Jim Harvey
To address Tony's comments:

the cost of the 5D MK II and the Redrockmicro DSLR rig will come in at right around $6000.00, (3500 for camera with L series 24-105 lens and the full DSLR Cinema Bundle), roughly half of your projection of $10,000.00 - $12,000.00

Yes, you can order any of the cameras that you mention, but understand that they are 1/3" chip cameras and do not deliver the same image that the 5D is capable of. Sure, you can put a $10,000.00 piece of glass on the front of the camera and bump the cost through the roof, but realistically, this setup delivers images that are simply not attainable with other cameras at this price point.

I can't comment on the Scarlett as I don't deal in vaporware. I will point out that the original cost projections of the RED was in the $10,000.00 range. I don't know anyone who has been able to put a fully operational RED together for that price.

This article was to illuminate the ability of a user to employ the 5D MK II in a cinematic capacity and achieve results that were beyond the capability of the average video camera. To that end, this does exactly that.

There is no perfect tool no matter how much money you have to throw at the problem. It is only by being aware of options and equipment that may interface with your particular shooting style and needs that you will be able to produce content that fits your specific clients objectives.

These cameras are evolving every day and there are people who are spending huge amounts of time and resources to make them MORE viable for a greater range of projects. So too are the rigs for these cameras evolving and allowing the end user to tailor a system to their budget and requirements.

This is only the beginning so I think it is unfair to immediately damn a system because it is in its infancy and doesn't do everything that you might want it to.

I predict that you will see more and more of these systems being employed simply for the high quality images that they produce at a very reasonable cost.

It's certainly NOT for everyone, but those who can employ it effectively will be very happy with the results that are possible.
Value
by Tim Wilson
Tony, you said: "Well, by the time you purchase a good DSLR camera, a good lens, and the RedRock system... You are looking at about roughly $10,000-$12,000. (CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG)."

Here's Jim's correction from his article: "...putting together the Canon 5DMK II and the Redrock DSLR Cinema Bundle or DSLR Field Cinema Bundle...with a good quality L series piece of glass up front, the total cost to you will be well under $7,000 -- and that’s with a very good tripod thrown into the mix."

To recap: camera, Canon lens, full rig, and very good tripod for well under $7000.

Pretty good, I think.

Not that there aren't reasons to choose other cameras. I don't even think Canon would say that the 5D MKII should be anybody's sole A camera for HD video. They have video cameras...and hey, now that they have this new imaging architecture, I'd be SHOCKED if a new video-first camera wasn't on the way.

But to Jim's original point: this solution works TODAY, for a reasonable price. And for people like Jim who are also serious about still photography (and like many serious still photogs already has an investment in Canon glass)...the money and the features are a very good fit, in ways that the other solutions you mentioned aren't.

Again, not that those other solutions won't work better for some people...just that price isn't the dealbreaker here that you might think.
Other PRO video cameras for the same PRICE
by Tony Murnahan
Well, by the time you purchase a good DSLR camera, a good lens, and the RedRock system... You are looking at about roughly $10,000-$12,000. (CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG).

You can get the new JVC HD700 line of cinema cameras for around $6,500-$8,000. They record variable variable frame rates in native Final Cut codec or h,264 to SDHC and SxS simultaneously. They come with a 1/3" HD interchangeable lens, have options for anton bauer style batteries.

You can get a Panasonic HPX-300 ENG style camera for around $10,000. It comes with a 1/3" interchangeable HD lens, has variable frame rates, records a plenitude of professional codecs to P2 cards, and uses the Anton Bauer style batteries.

If http://www.RED.com ever releases the SCARLET... You can have a 3K camera for between $4,000-$10,000 depending on how much you accessorize it. It has options for interchangeable lenses, can be used as a DSLR camera, has variable frame rates, records to CF cards, and the list goes on... I CAN'T WAIT FOR THIS CAMERA! Has anyone heard anything else about when they plan on releasing it?

Maybe time to start work on the sequel, Jim. :-)
by Tim Wilson
To echo Jim's point about audio - the rig makes it much easier to get pro-quality sound. In fact, this was one of the first things I asked Jim about when he told me about the review.

My suggested sequel has more to do with the video, though. A lot of folks are raising some interesting questions...and even if the answer is "It's just HD," I think a little more detail would be quite welcome in the herd. :-)
What is pro or not ?
by Raymond Adams
Hi Again Jim,

I guess you and I disagree as to what is pro or not.

I also don't have one of these rigs in my hands at the moment.

But from what I've seen, heard from other DoPs, read, and per conversations with Canon...

Was how I based my comments and perspections.
Now there are other third parties who are also trying to help.

http://magiclantern.wikia.com/wiki/Magic_Lantern_Firmware_Wiki

But that is still not enough.

As I stated the rolling shutter has been an issue not just for pans...but for fast moving objects, etc...

this rig is not good at all for key (blue or green) shots.

That the CMOS is windowed...thus NOT taking advantage of that 21 mega pixels.

The audio is really not good.

And one of the biggest issues is the recording format h.264.
This has so many issues with post that it would take a novel to address...just having a decent processor on your computer is just a small issue that needs to be there.

Thou I would love to see myself proved wrong...thus my request to have you write an article to address these issues and anwer my questions and concerns.

I've been looking for a real solution for this..and I hate waiting for RED to ship..and I know that even they will be limited...

Thanks again for your review of redrock...that was great.

Cheers,

Ray Adams
DoP/VFX Supervisor
Converting footage to the appropriate formats...
by Brenton Gowland
Hi Jim and all listening

I love this camera. I bought one recently and it takes amazing pics. Love the HQ footage as well, it's scope is great with a variety of lenses.

However it has proved to be difficult to use because it only allows a frame rate of 30 fps. How have you worked with this to convert it to 24P or 25P with no glitches.

I live in the land of PAL (Australia) and need advice to take full advantage of the camera.

Loved your post by the way, I have been looking at purchasing this DSLR bundle but need the footage to work at 25P to be able to justify buying it.

Any advice would be much appreciated.
Learning is what it's all about
by Jim Harvey
Ray,

We obviously have some differences of opinion, but that's a good thing. I am going to get in touch with a friend of mine at Canon and see if I can pick his brain about some of the upcoming features that they are working on. At the same time, I can ask about any ideas or suggestions from the factory to make things go a little easier on people Personally, I haven't had any difficulties with the camera, but that doesn't mean that I can't learn something new either. That's the beauty of dialog like this, it gets a lot of people involved and brings new ideas and questions to the fore.
slight correction
by Richard Peterson
Fist thanks for the research and article....

"At 21.1 megapixels, the 5DMK II has the highest resolution of any standard DSLR on the market today."

The Nikon D3x is a FX-format (full frame) CMOS image sensor with 24.5 MP and has thus has a higher resolution. It is a standard DSLR. Though it dose not shoot video.

But when you consider both Nikon's upcoming July 30th and August 4th announcements and the fact they already have 24p and a swivel display in current models. Nikon's second generation DSLR/video camera should get this party started. Lets just hope for a RAW video codec like the Red has....

The good news is the RedRock rig will work with both Nikon and Canon bodies.

Not for everyone
by Jim Harvey
The rolling shutter issue is overblown in my opinion. It ranks up there with the black dot problem from the camera's introduction. Unless you are whipping the camera right to left or vice versa I haven't seen any indication of a serious problem. You may have to adjust your technique, but that is the case with any new system. the quality that you can achieve is worth a little extra work.

If you want to put a rebel Ti1 on the unit go ahead, but if you're complaining that hte 5D MK II isn't "pro" enough for your work, how are you going to be happy with a Rebel?

Editing is no more problematic than with any other HD video. If you're using an older computer, yes, it will strain your resources and be difficult. the same with color correcting. Noise hasn't been an issue with any of the shots that I've seen.

This is merely a tool, nothing more. For some of the things that you mention, this may not be your best solution. Some of your demands would indicate that you need a conventional video camera, but for many filmmakers, this camera provides the answer to their requirements. to say that this isn't "Pro enough" is simply incorrect. The proof of that is the camera/rigs use in major productions. 30fps has not proven to be any impediment (not 20 fps).

As for cost, this is one of the most cost effective setups that I know of. Unless you want to hang the camera on the end of a broomstick and use a cardboard box for a mattebox, you'd be hard pressed to find a more affordable alternative. It is roughly half the price of similar setups and the quality is unarguable.

Audio can be off boarded if you so desire and when implemented properly is as good as any you will find. Without using the rig, audio is virtually useless as handling noise is too pronounced. Using the camera in the Redrockmicro rig brings the quality level up dramatically. In many instances that will be enough for your particular production.

The external monitors can be had for well under $1000.00. Critical focus is easier when using them.

This isn't nirvana for everyone, but it's a giant leap in many respects and opens the door to very high quality work for a large number of individuals who want to up their game for their clients. If it's not for your particular style of work, then you have to look elsewhere, but the cost to duplicate the quality and "look" that you can achieve with this setup will be significantly higher.

For years I have listened to people bemoan the fact that they couldn't get the "film look" without having to resort to dramatic measures in post, quirky camera adjustments and other "work arounds". This camera and this setup will provides the best "film look" that you are likely to see short of using film, and what I hear now is that it's still not good enough. Many working professionals would disagree.
Rolling Shutter problem
by Alexander Kallas
This Rolling Shutter "feature" makes action video problematic.
Do you have any comments and/or solutions
DSLR..and the accessories to make things work...or do they ?
by Raymond Adams
Hi Jim,

Nice review of the Redrock systems interesting and fairly good, the only things you really didn't do, is expand on the different systems as sold by them along with the REAL costs.

You gave some insights into some setups with the Canon DSLR...BTW what about the newer cheaper Rebel Ti1?

But all this hype about how great this system is etc...for pro work ????

All the Canon's record as h.264 (low profile)....with high noise on some channels and difficulty to edit... with rolling shutter issues etc...Bad for any key shots or shots with high contrast range...easily blown out and issues with fast moving subjects or backgrounds.

So how is this Pro?

Have you ever had to pull elements with this kind of footage or color correct, etc....

At only 20 FPS at 1080p...isn't pro...nor is the audio.
And being stuck to 30 fps for 720p...without the ability to ramp etc...will require your post solution to deal with it..and being h.264 (low profile) how clean will that be ?

So as a pro solution, this is a very limited option..one which the expense seems a bit high and limited (very limited).

I wish this wasn't the case...I really do. I'm a FX super...who is looking for something now...to help do stills and pickup shots...but this isn't the answer. I wish it was...but they need a better format (raw)...or at least the high profile version of h.264 or mpeg2..rather than the low profile.
the ability to do 24p along with 23.98 etc...also to do variable framerates up to 60p if possible (@ 720p)...
To have two memory slots...and an audio input for at least two channels...(external boom/lav-wire or wireless)
The ablility to add more video/film zoom lenses, etc...

But that's my take on where things are or aren't.

Love the use of the external monitor...how much was that ?

For me DSLR's are interesting for very limited uses...but for pro work...not there not yet.

I'ld love to see you do an article on how to implement this into a real production workflow..with FXs etc...and how you can use this in various shots...for the real life situations. From what I've seen and read...it's not ready for primetime yet.

Your open about it being a 21 megapixel camera..is true for the raw stills...but that isn't the resolution that the HD is being taken from..it is a lower resolution windowing of that chip...FWIK,

Cheers,

Ray Adams
DoP/VFX superisor
Outstanding work!
by Tim Wilson
You've written a lot of great stuff for the Cow, Jim, but this is a masterpiece. Great combination of gearhead breakdown and reports from different real-world users.
Monitors and Recordings
by Jeff Coleman
Nice article. Thanks.
Two Questions:
1. What external monitors are being used with this camera that give the operator effective focus dectection especially while handheld?
2. Can the camera be recorded/digitized directly by a video capture card from its HDMI output say to a AJA KiPRO or Black Magic Intensity Pro? And is the recording better than its native H.264 recording?
Using this as a Cinema Rig
by Jim Harvey
To add a bit on my previous answer;

If you use this rig as you would any 16mm or 35mm camera, you will experience excellent results that will be difficult for your audience to tell whether it is film or video. With the latest firmware update on the 5D MK II you now have complete control over exposure and aperture which enhances your creative control over the final image.

This is more of a "Film Acquisition" tool for lack of a better term rather than a conventional video camera. The results speak for themselves. Using this camera and rig will make you a better Cinematographer/Videographer as you have to THINK about your shots a bit more than you would with a standard HD Video camera. the end result is well worth the effort in my opinion.
Tony: I use 16GB CF cards
by Jim Harvey
Tony:

I use 16GB CF cards in the 5D MK II which gives me roughly 40-45 minutes of capture. There is only one slot so the issue of "hot swapping" doesn't come into the picture (no pun intended).

Compared to some of the tapeless acquisition that is currently being employed, this is a very affordable solution. Some manufacturers have awakened to the use of CF and SD cards for capture so cost for storage is continually decreasing. Cost wise, there is no comparison to P2 or SxS cards and quality is identical.

With the type of shooting that you are likely to be doing with this type of setup, hot swapping shouldn't be a concern of any sort. Length of time you are capable of capturing on a card is the least limiting factor. With a half dozen CF cards, you will be well served in terms of capacity. If you need more, CF media is extremely affordable.
Hard nosed reviews?
by Jim Harvey
Hi Ron Dylewski,

YOu are correct in that the swing away matte box isn't a "new" idea, but the way in which Redrockmicro implemented it on their mattebox was clean and elegant from a functionality and design standpoint. Other manufacturers also offer swing away boxes, but I was impressed with the engineering vs. cost that this unit offers.

As for it being a "Hard-nosed review" well, I took the "press" ticket out of my fedora a while ago, and quit keeping a bottle of rye in my desk drawer, but I think that I give my reviews a fairly critical eye. Had I found anything that I felt was a glaring problem, I would have reported on it. All in all, I found this to be an exceptional unit that is sure to provide a useful tool for owners of these DSLR cameras. As ofr a puff piece? Well I spent a considerable amount of time putting this together so I reject that opinion out of hand. No one gave me a "script" and no on "guided" me or influenced my commentary. I'm impressed with quality and like to pass on what I find so that others can benefit from my experiences.

I did don my trenchcoat when I complained about the thumbsrews though.
STORAGE?
by Tony Murnahan
This is off the subject of the The Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle... But is it practical to use these cameras for cinema? I'm not familiar with them so don't bash me. My question is how much video can you capture? I assume they use a CF Card. So is it just up to the size of the card you use? Are there two card slots? Are they hot-swappable?

THANKS!
A bit too effusive?
by Ron Dylewski
Listen, this looks like a nice piece of gear, but I found this "review" just a wee bit over the top. I mean, the concept of the swing-out matte box has been around for a looooong time, as has most of this stuff, so it's not like this is the best thing since sliced bread!

The implementation may be fine, but I felt like I was reading a company-generated puff piece, not a hard-nosed review.

Just my take.

Ron


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